Daniel Cohen (children's writer)

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Daniel Edward Cohen
BornDaniel Edward Reba
(1936-03-12)March 12, 1936
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 6, 2018(2018-05-06) (aged 82)
Cape May, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
GenreYoung adult, non-fiction
Notable worksCurses, Hexes and Spells
SpouseSusan Cohen (m. 1958)

Daniel Edward Cohen (March 12, 1936 – May 6, 2018) was an American non-fiction author who wrote over one hundred books on a variety of subjects, mainly for young audiences. He also fought for justice for the death of his daughter and the other 269 victims of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Early life[edit]

Daniel Edward Reba was born in Chicago. His father, Edward Reba, and his mother, Suzanne Greenberg, divorced when he was young. Later, his mother married Milton Cohen, and Daniel took his stepfather's surname.[1] Cohen attended Chicago public schools in the early 1950s. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While there he worked on the student newspaper and found he had a knack for journalism; he was eventually promoted to editor in chief. After two years at the Chicago campus he transferred to the University's central campus at Urbana-Champaign. He graduated with a degree in journalism in 1958.[1] After graduation he worked as a proofreader at Time Inc. before becoming an editor for Science Digest.[2] Cohen married Susan Handler, a writer who has worked on 60 Minutes the news magazine,[3] on February 2, 1958. In 1969 he moved with his wife to upstate New York, where he began a career as a freelance children's writer.[citation needed]

The couple had one child, a daughter, Theodora (September 10, 1968 – December 21, 1988),[4] who graduated from Port Jervis High School and attended Syracuse University at the time of her death.[5]


Cohen was well known for his books about UFOs, ghosts, psychic phenomena, cryptozoology, and the occult. Though Cohen is a self-described skeptic and onetime member of CSICOP,[6] his books on paranormal phenomena take a more light-hearted, open-minded stance. Daniel Cohen wrote about a variety of subjects of interest to young readers, including movies and television, extraterrestrials, and the supernatural. While the majority of Cohen's books deal with the mysterious and otherworldly, he approaches these topics with a certain amount of skepticism.

He initially wrote science books for the non-specialist, but had difficulty interesting publishers in these works. In contrast, his writings on UFOs and the supernatural were quite popular. In the course of researching his work, Cohen developed a genuine interest in the occult. However, despite having crept around haunted houses, attending séances, and spending a night in a graveyard, he admitted he had never seen a ghost. Though Cohen was intensely interested in the UFO phenomenon, writing several books on the subject, he was an admitted skeptic; he maintains though that the lack of conclusive evidence does not disprove anything.

Cohen's science books have been praised for the straightforward manner with which they explain basic principles.

Cohen was also a history buff and wrote books for young readers introducing the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome.

Cohen and his wife Susan have collaborated on books for teens. Susan's background in sociology helped the couple write Teenage Competition : A Survival Guide and When Someone You Know is Gay.[1] While writing books for a teenage audience, the Cohens were able to understand their audience by paying attention to their daughter's taste in fashion and entertainment.

Their most personal book was "Pan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice" (2000), which recounted their dramatically altered lives without their daughter.[1]

Cohen is also the author of the controversial Curses, Hexes and Spells (1974), which has appeared on several "banned books" lists due to its perceived advocacy of magic and witchcraft. Curses, Hexes, and Spells is number 73 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. Cohen said he has no problem with a parent telling his or her own child not to read the book, but "when a parent says no child should read the book, it becomes an object of censorship."[7]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Daniel Cohen wrote on a variety of subjects in addition to the paranormal: historical and current biographies; advice for teenagers; world history; science and technology; animals and nature; urban legends; and popular television, music, film, and sports personalities.[2] In all, he wrote nearly 200 books.[1] Good Reads shows 209 distinct works.[8] Some of his titles include: Myths of the Space Age (1967 - his first published book),[2] The World of UFOs (1978), A Close Look at Close Encounters (1981),[9] The Encyclopedia of Monsters (1981), The Great Airship Mystery (1981), How to Test Your ESP (1982), The Encyclopedia of Ghosts (1984), Phone Call from a Ghost (1988), Ghostly Tales of Love and Revenge (1992), and The Ghost of Elvis and Other Celebrity Spirits (1994).

Pan Am Flight 103[edit]

Cohen's daughter, Theodora, died at the age of 20 in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Thirty-eight minutes into its flight from Heathrow to JFK in New York, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded at 31,000 feet over rural Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 villagers in their homes. On that flight was the only child of Susan and Dan Cohen, Theodora ("Theo"). Susan Cohen calls December 21, 1988, not only the worst day of her life, but the last day of her life. "I'm not the same person ... There is not a day that will ever go by that is not filled with what happened." The Cohens have been, and continue to be, perhaps the most vocal activists among the Pan Am 103 families. They cowrote a book about it, entitled Pam Am 103: The Bombing, The Betrayals, and a Bereaved Family's Search for Justice.[10] They have criticized Pan Am, the U.S. and British governments, and dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in 2011. Susan Cohen maintains that with Gaddafi's death came the only justice she was ever to receive. A documentary was made about the aftermath of the bombing, titled Since: The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The film follows the Cohens and two other couples in the years since the loss of their children. The Cohens were chosen by filmmaker Phil Furey because they were "outspoken, and angry, and embittered."[11]

In August 2009, the convicted bomber was released on grounds of compassion. Susan Cohen, furious with the sympathy shown for the bomber, said, "'You want to feel sorry for anyone, please feel sorry for me, feel sorry for my poor daughter, her body falling a mile through the air'".[12]

Daniel and Susan Cohen were featured in the film Since: The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The film's creator, Phil Furey, stated that he selected the Cohens because of their anger and "how honest they were about how this ruined their lives."[13]

Personal life[edit]

Cohen lived in Port Jervis, New York, and later Cape May Court House, Middle Township, New Jersey, with his wife, Susan.[14]

Cohen along with Philip J. Klass, James E. Oberg and Ernest H. Taves were founding members of a Committee for Skeptical Inquiry UFO subcommittee. UFO expert Robert Sheaffer writes in his 1981 book UFO Verdict that the subcommittee was "the first ufological group formed by individuals 'not inclined to believe in the literal truth of UFO claims'".[15][16]

Further reading[edit]

  • Dubin, Murray (June 22, 2000). "Parents Seized By An Anger That Never Cools Their Only Child Died In The 1988 Bombing Of Pan Am Flight 103". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on March 6, 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d e Sandomir, Richard (May 9, 2018). "Daniel Cohen, 82, Dies; Sought Justice for Pan Am Bombing Victims". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Illinois Center for the Book". Illinois Authors Directory. Illinois State Library. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  3. ^ "Susan Cohen". IMDb.
  4. ^ "Cohen, Theodora". Syracuse University. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  5. ^ "Lockerbie victim's mom happy to see 'monster' Gadhafi gone". Times Herald-Record. October 21, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  6. ^ Frazier, Kendrick. "Science and the Parascience Cults". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on January 5, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  7. ^ Clark, Michael (October 4, 1990). "Books' occult aspects anger 2 parents in Columbia". Baltimore Sun. Baltimore Sun Media Group. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  8. ^ "Daniel Cohen". Goodreads. Goodreads Inc. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  9. ^ A Close Look at Close Encounters. Kirkus Media LLC. Retrieved January 1, 2019. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  10. ^ Allen, Jamie (June 21, 2000). "'Pan Am 103': Parents of one victim tell their tale". CNN.com. Archived from the original on June 7, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2008.
  11. ^ DeMono, Pat. "New film follows Port couple who lost child in Flight 103 bombing". recordonline.com. GateHouse Media. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
  12. ^ Kirkup, James (August 21, 2009). "Barack Obama's fury as Lockerbie bomber flies home a hero". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  13. ^ "New film follows Port couple who lost child in Flight 103 bombing". Times Herald Record. July 23, 2016. Archived from the original on April 13, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  14. ^ "Lockerbie victim's mom happy to see 'monster' Gadhafi gone". Times Herald-Record. October 21, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2021. Theo's parents, Susan and Dan Cohen, moved from Port Jervis to Cape May Courthouse, N.J.,[...]
  15. ^ "Ufology critic Ernest H. Taves dies at 87". magonia.com (in Spanish). Magonia. Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  16. ^ Sheaffer, Robert. (1981). The UFO Verdict: Examining the Evidence. Prometheus Books. p. 18

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